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New organic Standards Pose Problems for Spirulina

Earthrise and Cyanotech claim significant differences between organic and all-natural, American-made Spirulina; new organic standards believed to compromise product safety

March 13, 2006

New organic Standards Pose Problems for Spirulina

 

Cyanotech Corporation and Earthrise Nutritionals, the world's two leading suppliers of Spirulina, both ceased production of Organic Spirulina as of October 21, 2005 due to regulatory changes in the allowable nitrogen sources in the new organic standards.

 

The National Organic Standards Board of the US Department of Agriculture (NOSB) disallowed the use of a mined, water-soluble form of natural nitrogen that was previously allowed in Organic Spirulina farming, even though its use poses no potential problems for ground seepage or runoff due to both companies' utilization of pond liners and closed loop systems for their microalgae farming.

 

Prior to October 2005, both companies spent years analyzing the nitrogen sources allowed under the new standard and concluded that switching to the allowable sources would compromise the safety of their Spirulina.

 

"Teams of scientists from both companies concluded that the potential for very high bacterial levels and heavy metals is far too great under the new standard," said Taro Ichimoto, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Earthrise Nutritionals. "Although consumers like to see the word 'organic' on the label, we won't produce an Organic Spirulina if it compromises the safety of the product."

 

Dr. Gerald Cysewski, Cyanotech's Founder and CEO, said, "Cyanotech and Earthrise are the world's premier producers of Spirulina. Both companies thoroughly studied the situation and came to the conclusion that maintaining organic production under the new standard would lead to a lower quality product at a higher cost. Furthermore, with the use of the new nitrogen sources, Organic Spirulina produced under the new standard may not be considered vegetarian or vegan, a critical point of distinction to many Spirulina consumers."

 

Cyanotech and Earthrise have begun a joint advertising campaign to educate retailers and the industry about this change. The companies had worked together previously in 2003 when they filed a joint GRAS petition to the FDA for Spirulina produced at their respective farms in California and Hawaii. The GRAS petition was reviewed by the FDA with no objection, which means that currently only Earthrise and Cyanotech Spirulina is recognized as safe by the FDA for use in all food, beverage and supplement applications.

 

"If you want to be assured of having a high quality, safe Spirulina, you have to buy American," said Dr. Cysewski.

 

The checkbox below illustrates many of the differences that Cyanotech points out between All Natural, US Grown Spirulina and Organic Spirulina grown under the new standard.

 

 

Comparison                      All Natural      "Organic" Spirulina

                            U.S. Grown Spirulina  Produced under the

                                                      New Standard

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Pesticide free                       X                     X

------------------------------------------------ ---------------------

Herbicide free                       X                     X

------------------------------------------------ ---------------------

Environmentally friendly             X                     X

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Purified nutrients                   X

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Low bacterial count                  X

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Low heavy metal level                X

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Non-animal fertilizers               X

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Minimally processed                  X

------------------------------------------------ ---------------------

Higher growth rate                   X

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